Japanese has three "alphabets" that are used for common writing. Two of them, Hiragana and Katakana, are similar to our Latin alphabet where each character represents a particular sound. The third writing system is Kanji, borrowed from the Chinese writing system. Normal Japanese writing, say from a newspaper, will often have all three, but mostly just Kanji and Hiragana. Katakana is used mostly for foreign loan words; words borrowed from other languages and incorporated into the Japanese vocabulary.